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Multilateral Talks Offer Nth Korea Opportunity

Multilateral Talks Offer North Korea Important Opportunity

background briefing on upcoming talks in China

By Jane Morse -
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Upcoming multilateral talks in Beijing will give North Korea "an important opportunity ... to reassure its neighbors and the international community about its intentions and its role in the future," says a senior State Department official.

The multilateral talks, with participation by delegations from the United States, South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia as well as North Korea, are scheduled for August 27, 28 and 29. At a background briefing held August 22 at the U.S. State Department, the briefer, who declined to be identified, said that "actions by North Korea that satisfactorily address concerns about its nuclear weapon program could open the door to a very new kind of relationship, certainly with the U.S., and with other countries as well."

The multilateral talks are taking place following an extended period in which Pyongyang insisted on bilateral talks with the United States alone to discuss outstanding issues. The U.S. official acknowledged that it is highly unlikely any agreement will be reached during the upcoming meetings, but observed that "[t]he process is now beginning ... and it's likely to be a long one. There is no preordained schedule for success or failure in these talks. We believe that peaceful, diplomatic resolution is possible, but we have also repeatedly said that, of course, all options will remain on the table."

The objective, the official said, "is to urge North Korea to commit to the complete verifiable and irreversible ending of is nuclear arms program" through a "peaceful diplomatic resolution."

During the three days of meetings, the official said, the United States plans to lay out its objective in detail while "hearing in a respectful way the views of each of the other delegations and pressing North Korea to agree to our objective: the complete verifiable and irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons program."

"We hope these talks will create the conditions necessary for ending the DPRK's (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) self-isolation. And we hope that they will, in some way, through the end of this process, lead to a better life for the North Korean people," the official added.

The official said that while there probably will not be time during this round of talks to discuss concerns such as human rights, refugees, Japanese abductees and other issues of concern to North Korea and the international community, the United States hopes to make clear to the Pyongyang leadership that "if we can move in the direction of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, that there are many things we'll want to talk about, and many opportunities that we hope will develop."

When asked about North Korea's demands for security assurances, the U.S. official said: "I don't think we're looking at a Non-Aggression Pact. ... Normalization of our relations in the future as progress is developed is certainly one possibility."

The official acknowledged that there are "a lot of different aspects" to North Korea's nuclear program, and resolving them will be "a complicated process" which has "a certain urgency."

"There are really four parts of the North Korea nuclear issue," the official said. "There is the reprocessing of plutonium that may have been done some ten or more years ago; there is the spent fuel rods in whatever amount, perhaps all of them, that have been reprocessed recently and the plutonium; there is the uranium enrichment program that has been proceeding separately; and then there are the reactors and the spent fuel from which further plutonium can be generated."

"We don't have forever and a day to deal with this issue," the official said, adding: "I don't think we have any firm timelines on how to do that. But I think it's very important that we see progress."

The U.S. delegation to the August 27-29 talks will include Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless, Dr. Michael Green from the National Security Council, and Brigadier General Gary North from the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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